François Mitterrand pushed for monetary union to tether a united Germany to Europe and curb its economic power, but never wanted to cede political sovereignty. Edouard Balladur when Prime Minister brushed aside a 1994 proposal by senior German politicians Wolfgang Schaeuble and Karl Lamers for a “core Europe” built around the euro. When Lionel Jospin was Prime Minister he seemed only interested in Europe if it pursued a socialist agenda, and Jacques Chirac as President rejected the rules-based budget discipline of the EU’s Stability Pact when it applied to France. But he lost a referendum on an EU constitution because the French thought the enlarged Europe too economically liberal for their taste. Nicolas Sarkozy, too, began his presidency by riding roughshod over EU budget rules, and then yielded to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in the disastrous Deauville agreement to make private bond-holders share losses in future European bailouts, undermining investors’ confidence in eurozone government debt.
Whether François Hollande will be receptive to a more integrated eurozone remains to be seen. For the moment, he too seems keen to avoid reopening EU treaties for fear of a referendum that could divide the Left.